2019 performance could boost BJP’s assembly prospects in Bengal
Mamata Banerjee’s party swept the subsequent assembly elections in 2011, winning 184 seats in the 294-member assembly and drawing curtains on the 34-year rule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Ten years ago, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which was in the opposition, won 19 out of the 42 seats in West Bengal, then considered a Left bastion. Mamata Banerjee’s party swept the subsequent assembly elections in 2011, winning 184 seats in the 294-member assembly and drawing curtains on the 34-year rule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or the CPI(M).
The outcome in this year’s national elections could be equally significant for the Centre’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which registered a vote share increase of about 23 percentage points — from 17.02% in the 2014 elections to 40.2%, say experts. “The results [of 2019] could be ominous for the ruling party for the assembly polls [to be held in 2021],” said Biswanath Chakraborty, a psephologist and professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University.
“The switchover of a large number of TMC legislators seems to be merely a matter of time. So is a change in the government in the state,” Chakraborty said.
Political commentator Suvashis Maitra said the “first effects” will be felt in the Kolkata civic body elections next year.
“As far as the assembly polls are concerned, the outcome will largely depend on how Banerjee plans to overcome the crisis,” he said.
Anubrata Mondal, the TMC’s district president in Birbhum, dismissed speculations on the possible impact of these results on the assembly polls. “The results [in the state] will be different,” he said.
In the 2016 assembly elections, the TMC won 211 seats; the Congress, 44; and the Left bloc, 32. The BJP won three seats.
On April 29, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally in West Bengal that 40 TMC legislators were in touch with him. The BJP’s Bengal president, Dilip Ghosh, too said several TMC MLAs and other parties were making courtesy calls to him.
The BJP’s tally of 18 — which looks possible — in the national elections also means that there is a big dent in the Left vote share, which plunged to just over 7% in 2019 from 29.95% in 2014. The TMC, on the other hand, improved in terms of vote share, getting 43.3% in 2019 as compared to the 39.79% it bagged in 2014.
“Before the elections, even the core voters of the CPI(M) were in two minds...they later realised that democracy can be restored in the state if the Narendra Modi government is elected at the Centre. It was not just a negative vote for the TMC but was also a positive vote for the BJP,” said Rupa Ganguly, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha member.
Till this election, the BJP had been a fringe player in Bengal’s political arena. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections indicated that the BJP was getting a foothold in the eastern state. 2019 proved that the BJP was ready for serious business in West Bengal.